The Snow Queen in Film

byCarol Boynton


Who doesn’t love fairy tales with their dramatic plots, evil characters and good ones, fantastical settings with magical happenings and, of course, the predictable happy ending! Young, and not so young children cheer for the good guys and boo the bad, sit wide-eyed as they wait for the next amazing event, and breathe a sigh of relief as the ultimate “good over evil” prevails.

The second-grade literacy curriculum in New Haven Public Schools includes a unit titled Writing Adaptations of Fairy Tales and Folk Tales. Throughout this unit, the students focus on the essential questions: Why is it important to understand what, why, and how a character does things? What elements need to be present in a variation of a classic tale? How do writers create their own versions of a fairy tale? This curriculum unit goes beyond my district’s approach to teaching folk tales and fairy tales by introducing the medium of film as an enriching component. The current Adaptations unit has a long list of student-learning points, including a general goal of “using the steps of the writing process” to a specific goal of, “understanding the structure of a fairy tale,” which includes the character experiencing wishes, magic, and living happily ever after.  This unit expands and enriches my primary students’ understanding of these components of fairy tales through film adaptations.

As a primary-level teacher in a self-contained classroom at Edgewood Magnet School in New Haven, I find the neighborhood/magnet setting a rewarding environment, with students coming to school each day from a variety of home circumstances and with differences in academic levels. Because of these variables, the children have differing levels of background knowledge and life experiences. The classroom is a mixture of varied ethnicities, economic strata and social and emotional strengths and weaknesses. Edgewood provides an S.T.E.A.M. curriculum, an educational approach that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking. This literacy unit supports the theme of our school, providing learning and experiences through the Arts.

Throughout the school year, the second-grade curriculum focuses on two Common Core State Standards: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why and how and demonstrate understanding of key details; and, recounting (or retelling) stories, including fables and folktales and determine their central message, lesson or moral.  With this direct connection between these standards and the approach of learning fairy tales, I anticipate that the students will be engaged and excited as they learn about characters on the page and the screen. Most of my students have seen the recent Disney adaptations of stories from around the world, meaning often the literature or written story comes after the viewing. We will have the opportunity to discuss what distinguishes literature from film, what they have in common and how adaptations differ from an original story which will support the two stated standards, among others in the New Haven Public School literacy curriculum.


This literacy unit specifically focuses on the story, The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen and Disney’s adaptation of this story in the film, Frozen. The Snow Queen was first published in 1845. The story centers on the struggle between good and evil as taken on by a little boy and girl, Gerda and Kay and is told in a series of seven tales. The tales begin with a demon who shatters a mirror which makes good people see only evil.  The second tale tells of Kay and Gerda - a shard pierces Kay’s eye and heart turning him to sadness and causing him to run away.  Parts three through six consist of Gerda’s search for Kay through a series of strange adventures, characters and experiences. Finally, Gerda finds Kay, prisoner of the Snow Queen, who uses a mathematical puzzle to hold him, but the spell is broken by faith and love.1

Frozen is a 2013 computer-animated musical film inspired by Andersen’s tale and tells the story of a fearless princess searching for her sister who is trapped in eternal winter. With the help of a similar set of characters, Elsa works to free her sister, Anna, from a frozen state. As in the original story, the spell is broken by true love.2

Students will learn to recognize the similarities and differences in the language used in each version of the story as well as the story itself. The students will keep in mind the series of questions we focus on throughout the year – who, what, where, when, why and how. Who are the evil characters? How do we know? Do the characters change throughout the story and if so, how? Where is the magic in this fairy tale? What lessons do the characters learn, if any?

For this unit, we use the original story, read in seven parts separately after which the students will view the movie adaptation.

With this experience under our belts, the students will create adaptations of fairy tales of their choosing and create their own storyboards, act out and recite scenes. Together, they will film these adaptations and invite parents and fellow students to enjoy our work.  


Frozen is an animated adaptation of a written text.  There are a variety of ways to adapt a written text which range on a spectrum from a loose retelling of a story to one that is closely faithful to the text.  One way to think about adaptation is as a translation from one medium to another – in this case literature in the form of a fairy tale to film, in this case an animated film. Each product is individual, but they resemble each other in ways that make them related to each other. Film adaptations by nature of the medium require images to tell the story.3 The director and in this case the animation team, work together to decide what images can best relay the story they are adapting, basing their ideas obviously on the written text but possibly on previous adaptations that may already exist.4

Hans Christian Andersen

The life of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen was like a fairy tale in many ways. Poverty, hardship, and loneliness in his youth were experiences that helped him to become one of the most honored men of his time. Many of the more than 160 fairy tales he wrote, including The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid, and The Snow Queen have become literary classics, and many have been adapted into films.

Andersen was born on April 2, 1805, in Odense, Denmark. His parents were poor; his father worked as a shoemaker and his mother was a washerwoman. His father, who died when Andersen was 11, entertained him with old Danish legends and stories from The Arabian Nights.

In 1819, Andersen moved to the capital city of Copenhagen, where he hoped to become an actor in the Royal Theater. Although many people of the theater tried to help him, he was not successful. One of the directors raised money to send him away to school, a very unhappy time in his life. He was not well treated by fellow students and schoolmasters. When word of Andersen's plight reached his benefactor in Copenhagen, he was given lessons from a private tutor. He later attended and graduated from Copenhagen University.

Andersen then spent many years traveling and writing poems, books, and plays. It was not until he was 30 that he wrote any fairy tales. His first small book of fairy tales became popular almost immediately. Andersen put many memories of his own life into his fairy tales. He never forgot that his mother as a young girl had been forced to go begging. This led him to write "The Little Match Girl," a story full of compassion for the unfortunate. His own personal experiences are reflected in "The Ugly Duckling," which points out that sometimes the qualities that make you feel lonely, different, and out of place are the very qualities that, when properly used, can make you shine.

In 1867 he returned to Odense to be honored by his country. Andersen published his last fairy tales in 1872, and after a long illness, he died in Copenhagen on August 4, 1875.5

Fairy Tale Essentials

Children begin hearing fairy tales at a very early age. The are stories that can be told, read aloud from a book, and of course, seen as a movie. What is the purpose of a fairy tale? According to Bettelheim, fairy tales show children that if one faces life’s obstacles, one can overcome them.

These stories, characters and experiences remind us of ourselves and address issues of everyday life. As children learn and hear fairy tales, they know to expect a magical event or phenomenon that seems a valid part of human life, although, of course, it cannot be.6

Comparing the Andersen and Disney

In the Andersen story two young, children Kay and Gerda, are inseparable friends. They live opposite each other in attic rooms and play together in the gutter outside their windows as if they were brother and sister. In the summers, flower boxes and roses are planted in the gutter creating a mini-garden where they can play. Roses are their favorite and Gerda teaches Kay part of a hymn about them:

Where roses deck the flowery vale,

There, infant Jesus, we thee hail 7

During the winter, they communicate via peep holes through the windows or by scampering down the stairs into the street and up into the other’s house. One day, while sitting inside, one of their grandmothers tells them about the “white bees of snow” and the “queen bee” who appears in the thickest of swarms and makes ice patterns on the windows. Gerda asks if this “Snow Queen” could ever come into the house but Kay shrugs and says he would just melt her on the stove if she did.

The Disney version introduces two Norwegian princesses, Elsa and Anna, who are inseparable as the film opens. Elsa spends her day throwing snow and icicles around for Anna’s entertainment and building snowmen out of nothing. One night, while leaping between snow pillars created by Elsa, an accident occurs. Elsa cannot keep up with Anna’s zealousness as she leaps too quickly. Elsa accidently strikes Anna in the head with an ice bolt and she falls to the ground.

The most immediate difference we notice is the relationship and gender of the main characters. Andersen’s children are friends, a boy and a girl, whereas Disney’s are siblings, both girls.  Similar themes remain, though: one half of the pair is fearless (burning a snow spirit on the stove or leaping too high and too fast) while the other is more cautious. The snow queen as a ghostly apparition or as the presence in the young girl, Elsa, will test the strong bond in both sets of children.

The adventures continue as Kay, while looking out the window sees a snowflake materialize into the Snow Queen. She is tall and beautiful made of ice, with eyes that have no peace or kindness in them. She is nice enough to give him a wave and he runs away, pretending he had seen a bird. During the summer, he feels a grain of something in his eye and his heart suddenly turns into a lump of ice. Oddly, the Snow Queen is nowhere in sight. A tiny grain from the cursed mirror had entered Kay’s eye. He begins to destroy the beloved roses, kick over the flower boxes and tease Gerda, who is confused and tearful. Kay teases and mimics those he meets and sees snowflakes as the only thing unworthy of ridicule.

Disney has Elsa and Anna’s parents rush to receive advice about what to do for their daughter. This comes from a gaggle of trolls, mossy rocks, who tell the king and queen that Anna’s injury is not permanent if she has only been struck in the head and not the heart, but for her safety they need to wipe all of her memories of Elsa’s magic, leaving only the fun. Elsa’s powers will grow stronger as she gets older and more dangerous when she is angry. The king, queen and Elsa decide to isolate themselves, shutting the palace gates against the rest of the world and try to control Elsa’s powers by putting gloves over her hands. Anna, despite attempts throughout her childhood to play with her sister, is separated from her by a closed door. When the parents are lost at sea, Elsa becomes ever more reclusive. Conversely, Anna remains optimistic and well adjusted, despite having no one to play with, no way to leave the palace and no reason to think her sister will ever stop ignoring her.

Elsa and Kay both change their behavior because of magic - Elsa out of fear and to protect her sister; Kay is unaware of the reason. Neither Anna nor Gerda understand why their playmate’s behavior is so different. Anna’s whole family is hiding something from her; Kay is just incredibly unkind to Gerda and now makes her cry.

Kay is older now and is allowed to play on a sled with the bigger boys in town, but when a large white sled appears, he connects onto it and is led out of the kingdom and into a snowy wilderness. When they stop, the driver is revealed as the Snow Queen. When she sees he is shivering, she kisses him to take away the cold. He forgets about Gerda and his home. She looks perfect to him and he willingly goes back with her to her palace, sleeping at her feet during the day and staring up at the moon at night. People back in the town think Kay is dead, possibly drowned in the river. Gerda believes this as well until the spring arrives and the birds tell her he is not. She sets off to find him herself.

Elsa is older now as well and must take her place as the Queen of Arendelle. She faces Coronation Day with dread and tries to hide her powers inside her gloves. Anna is thrilled that the gates are open and that her sister is out from behind closed doors. There is even the possibility that Anna may find a handsome prince, which in fact happens when she meets Prince Hans. While Elsa has been speaking to Anna throughout the day, she does not care for Anna’s intention to marry Hans after having just met him. Elsa refuses to give her blessing. Upset with the circumstances, Anna ends up snatching one of Elsa’s gloves off and begs her to explain why she has shut everyone out. In turn, Elsa gets upset as well and her powers emerge as she accidentally unleashes icy spikes in front of everyone. Elsa turns and runs out of the town, which she has left buried in heavy snow. She feels free and happy finally and leaves her Arendelle responsibilities behind. She builds herself an ice palace with her supernatural powers. Anna is left feeling guilty and sets out after her, leaving the town in Hans’ hands.

Both the events of Coronation Day and being allowed to play with the big boys are different but both are “coming of age” events and result in Elsa and Kay leaving their lives behind to begin a life in the snow and ice. Elsa is able to find freedom and stop hiding herself and Kay sees this life as flawless, since the shard of glass has him seeing opposites. Neither Elsa or Kay have done anything wrong to be in their situations and both “sisters” have embarked on a search for each of them.

Gerda’s first stop on her search for Kay is at the river. She is almost swept away but rescued by an old woman who intends to keep her. She removes all the roses from her garden to keep Gerda from remembering her playmate, Kay. But the old woman forgets to remove one painted on her hat, so Gerda’s memory is jolted. Her tears bring back the roses and the other flowers. While the flowers can tell many stories, they cannot tell Gerda any more details about Kay’s situation, only that he is not dead. Gerda leaves the garden when it is autumn in the outside world. She encounters a crow who may have seen Kay getting married to a princess recently. She discovers this is not the case, but the prince and princess give her supplies for the journey – a muff, boots and a golden chariot, horse, outrider, footman and coachman.

As Anna sets out, she is thrown from her horse and is left stranded in the snow. She finds a trading post and encounters a rugged mountain man named Kristoff. He is at the post to buy some equipment for himself and his reindeer, Sven. Kristoff has had difficulty selling ice with the sudden seasonal changes and is struggling to make a living. Anna buys what he needs in turn for a ride up to the north mountain, as she continues her search for Elsa. Her tactics work and they set off together on Kristoff’s sled. On their trip, Kristoff learns that Anna’s sister has magical powers and discovers that Anna is quite fearless. When they are under attack by a pack of wolves, Kristoff, Sven and Anna escape but the beloved sled is destroyed. Anna promises to replace it if Kristoff accompanies her, to which he agrees. They meet Olaf, a talking snowman who closely resembles one Anna and Elsa made as young girls. Olaf knows where Elsa is and agrees to lead them to her. They want to reach her to persuade her to lift the eternal winter from their town and bring back the sunshine, allowing Kristoff to resume his business. Olaf is unaware that heat and summer will have a negative effect on him.

It seems that, except for the wolves, everyone that Princess Anna meets along the way is willing to help her. The reverse happens with Gerda, a peasant girl, who is helped by the royalty she meets, the prince and princess who supply her with means to travel. They both receive help along the way by means of a snowman and a crow. Olaf is the link to Anna and Elsa’s childhood and in Gerda’s case, the roses keep her memory of Kay alive.

With her friend the crow out of sight, Gerda is captured by robbers. A bearded old woman takes her from the chariot and decides to cook her for lunch until her daughter nearly bites off her ear. She demands that Gerda become her playmate. Under the threat of stabbing, Gerda plays with the robber girl and sleeps next to her. She has imprisoned a collection of pigeons and a reindeer called Be. The robber girls treat the animals poorly but once the pigeons and Be reveal that they know of the Snow Queen, the robber girl allows Gerda to take Be. Their first stop is the Lapp lady who gives Gerda a note written on fish to take to a Fin woman, who can better direct them to the Snow Queen.

Elsa’s ice palace turns out to be difficult to find. She is living a responsibility-free life until Anna finds her. Once again, Elsa tells her sister to leave for her own safety and that she can never return. Anna persists and is struck in the heart when Elsa throws ice around in anger and exasperation and even conjures up an ice man to chase them away. Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf almost fall to their deaths off the mountainside to escape. Kristoff’s quick thinking allows them to make a soft landing. Anna begins to notice Kristoff for the first time but her injury begins to take its toll. Kristoff takes her to his friends and adopted family, the trolls who stage a mock marriage of Anna and Kristoff. The trolls advise that Anna is doomed from her injury unless an act of true love can heal her heart. This means to Anna and Kristoff that all they need to do is get Anna back to Hans. As Anna is failing, Kristoff gathers her up, and he and Sven head to Arendelle.

Gerda and Be arrive at the Fin woman’s house, where Be does all the talking. Be asks the woman if she can give Gerda anything for her journey. The Fin woman tells the caribou that if Gerda can’t find the Snow Queen then she herself is doomed. She explains that everyone has helped her on the way because of her love for her “brother” and her child-like innocence. To keep this innocence, she must never be told of this power. The Fin woman had Be take Gerda to north to Finmark.

Anna’s horse returned to Arendelle riderless, so Hans decides to send out a search party. The Duke of Weselton sends two men to go find Elsa to kill her. They manage to find her and although Elsa tries to defend herself, she ends up unconscious and wakes up in a prison cell in Arendelle. Hans begs her to bring back summer, but Elsa tells him she cannot and becomes angrier when she realizes her sister has not returned. Soon afterwards, Kristoff and Sven return with an icy and ill Anna. When Anna is alone with Hans she begs him to kiss her to break the spell. He then reveals he does not love her and his plan to marry her was made in order to become the king. With twelve older brothers, he has no chance otherwise. He leaves Anna to freeze to death. He tells everyone that before she died, they had made their wedding vows and that Elsa killed her and must be executed for treason.

Gerda and Anna both face adversity with courage and fortitude. Gerda manages to turn the ice and snow to her advantage. As she walks further, the snowflakes become bigger until they take on the shape of the Snow Queen’s guards. By reciting the Lord’s Prayer, Gerda creates her own ice soldiers to cut them up and protect her from the cold. Anna’s friends leave her in the “good hands” of Hans; Gerda’s friends leave her and she finds her inner power.

Kay has been as unaware of danger as Gerda, living in the Snow Queen’s palace. Her giant palace is essentially empty as she is often away. Kay sits on the frozen floor arranging ice patterns in a puzzle. If he can arrange the pieces to make the word “eternity,” the queen will let him go and give him a new pair of skates. Because he has this grain of the mirror in his eye and his heart, he is focused on these ice shapes and almost black with cold. Gerda is able to find Kay in the palace, although he neither acknowledges nor recognizes her. She hugs him, cries and sings the rose hymn they used to know. These actions warm him up, melt his heart and turn him back into the sweet friend he once was. Kay and Gerda are so happy to have found each other that the ice pieces dance about and fall into the proper configuration. The Snow Queen returns and frees Kay.

Anna, too, is lying on the floor, freezing to death. Olaf comes and lights a fire, disregarding the risk to himself. Elsa has broken free by icing up the palace, making it deadlier and harder to open doors to escape. The pair struggle out of a window and onto the frozen lake. Kristoff and Sven race over to collect Anna, who sees Hans is near Elsa out on the ice. Anna runs to throw herself in the path of Hans’ sword, which he has raised over Elsa. Anna deflects the sword as she turns into an ice statue. Saving her sister is the true act of love that turns Anna back into a human. 

Gerda and Kay walk back, unhindered by storm or bad weather. They experience an opportunity to revisit Gerda’s helpers throughout the story. When the reach the border of Finmark, Be and a younger deer are waiting for them. They carry the children back to the Fin woman’s home for directions. They eat, change their clothes, and get a new sled at the Lapp woman’s house. As they reach the border of their own country, they see the robber girl, who is riding the horse for Gerda’s chariot and set off to explore the world. Gerda learns that the male crow has died. When they return home, they see grandmother reading the Bible and the two realize they are both grown up. By remaining innocent children in their hearts, they were protected from evil and, from then on, summer seems to last forever.

Elsa realizes the power of love, she lifts the snow and ice from the town. She uses her powers to bring happiness and to keep Olaf from melting. Hans and the Duke of Weselton are banished. Elsa fully embraces her powers and she and Anna are able to return to a normal, sister relationship, despite the fact that Elsa’s power remains.

Anna and Gerda spent years of forgiveness and understanding, and even death-defying actions, for their respective sister and surrogate brother. The love they showed their sibling is stronger than any love felt by any of the romantic characters involved. Kristoff and Anna’s feelings could not compete; Gerda showed no jealousy of Kay’s experiences and they do not marry when they return. Elsa shuts herself away to protect her sister, out of love and fear. In Kay’s case, he was a prisoner of evil magic. Both he and Elsa are truly free when they allow themselves to feel love.

In Andersen’s The Snow Queen, faith is prominent as it protects the characters. Gerda teaches Kay the hymn of the roses and recites the Lord’s Prayer for protection from the Snow Queen’s powers. A hymn revives Kay and by remaining innocent in her heart, Gerda avoids many potentially difficult situations on her own. They are able to escape the evil Snow Queen, the girl uncharacteristically rescuing the boy from harm. In addition, most of Gerda’s helpers along the way are also female.

Frozen shows how fear can affect someone’s behavior and that running away from your problems instead of facing them can further complicate them. Elsa tries to hide her powers rather than attempt to control them. Anna desperately wants to spend time with her sister and will take on many risks to do so, including rejection, injury and even death but her powerful love for her sister saves them both.

Role of Music

An initial obvious difference between The Snow Queen and Frozen is, of course, the music. The Disney version of most fairy tales generally include several songs and tunes that help the viewer understand the story or a character’s thoughts and plans.

Frozen uses the same Disney strategy through five major songs, each giving the viewers insight into the characters, all composed by husband and wife songwriters, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. The film opens with Frozen Heart, a mood-establishing tune sung by workers cutting through ice, which adds action, setting, and intensity to set the stage. Princess Anna's early song is For the First Time in Forever, a declaration of hopes and dreams as her castle opens its doors for the first time for her sister Elsa's coronation.  Love Is an Open Door helps

to make it believable that the lonely Anna would agree to marry the dashing Hans after only a couple of hours spent together. Let It Go is the centerpiece song that captures the heart of the movie as the audience witnesses Elsa’s transformation. And finally, In Summer, sung by Olaf, shows his naivete, almost like that of a child.8

A noted quote from Hans Christian Andersen--where words fail, music speaks --seems quite appropriate for this particular film adaptation.9

Teaching Strategies

Experiential Learning: The major strategy for this unit is to engage the students in hands-on learning. I want them to be actively participating in a hands-on creation of an adaptation. The writing activities and film-making projects are designed to be exploratory for the students, so they are engaged in the enjoyment of the experience and process, as well as the product, their film.

Differentiated Instruction: The students will use a variety of approaches, working sometimes individually and sometimes in small groups, determined by the complexity of the activity. Because these are young children with variance in levels and background, guidance and pacing are adjusted to ensure that all students are engaged and active throughout the learning experiences. Students will have opportunities to work with a variety of peers as they explore adaptation ideas using a variety of materials.

Cooperative Learning: The students will be given opportunities to work as cooperative groups to complete assignments and activities. This strategy will allow students to work collaboratively, taking on various roles necessary to complete the storyboards and adaptation planning, with a focus on success for all. A culminating activity will be the “movie day” that includes families and guests from within the school.

Use of Technology: The students will be creating their own movies with the use of classroom iPads. Working in groups, they will share the responsibility of filming individual scenes based on the storyboards they developed in their cooperative groups.

Classroom Activities

Activity One: Learning the Stories

In this first activity, the students will learn the original story, The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen as well as Disney’s adaptation in the film, Frozen. This part of the unit will take about two weeks to complete. The fairy tale is quite long but conveniently broken into seven “chapters” making it easy to present in parts. Read-aloud each section, only one per day, followed by a discussion answering the questions that who, what where, when, why and how. Allow the students to ask questions of their own and answer in an authentic way. It is important to keep track of questions and answers for future reference as the students will be comparing the written text to the film adaptation. Using one chart per section will help the students when they need refer back to the what they have learned. The following are a few questions to use to get the discussions started:

Part One: How does the story begin? Who is causing all the trouble? What happens with the mirror?  What are some problems that could occur with the pieces of the mirror?

Part Two: Who are the characters? What is their life like? Where do they live? When does the story take place? Why are the characters so close? What problem occurs with Kay?

Part Three: How is Gerda feeling? What does she decide to do? Who helps her and doesn’t help her? What do you think about the flowers in this part of the story?

Part Four: Who does Gerda during her trip? Are they helpful or not and how? What does the Raven say to her? Where is she at this point and does she like being there? Why or why not? Does she learn anything during her visit?

Part Five: Who are the new characters Gerda meets? What does she think of them? Where is she now? What animals does she meet during this part of the story?

Part Six: Why is the Reindeer important? Where does he take Gerda? What new characters are introduced?  Who tells Gerda about Kay and what does she know? How does Gerda escape? What do we learn about Kay at the end of this section?

Part Seven: What is palace like? Who lives in the palace? How is Kay when Gerda finds him? What is happening with the Snow Queen? How are Kay and Gerda able to escape? Who do they meet on their return trip? Where do they end up and how have they changed?

The students will then view the film adaptation in full. Revisit the same questions generated during the read-aloud and document responses relative to the film. Be prepared to return to sections of the film to verify both questions and answers.

Activity Two: Analyzing Similarities and Differences

Students will recognize the similarities and differences in the language used in each version of the story as well as the story itself.  They will use the writing process to create two illustrated summaries of the story, one based on the fairy tale, one on the film. Students will demonstrate understanding the beginning, middle, and end of each by creating a book or poster to show the similarities and differences between the two versions. Their summaries should include who, what, where, when, why and how with images to show scenes from The Snow Queen and scenes from Frozen. Students will use the work done during Activity One to help guide their work. Students may choose to use up to three “middle” sections to show major events that drive the story. This will not be a complete retelling but rather a broad summary to show understanding of the major similarities and differences.

Activity Three: Choosing Fairy Tales to Adapt

The students will create adaptations of fairy tales of their choosing and create their own storyboards, act out and recite scenes. In groups of four or five, students will agree upon a fairy tale they would like to adapt. They will all read the fairy tale and create storyboards, drawings that depict the way they will tell the story through film. Once they have their ideas on paper and in sequence, they will practice acting out each scene and learning the lines. This portion of the unit will take about two weeks.

Activity Four: Filming Adaptations

Students will film these adaptations and invite parents and fellow students to enjoy our work. After completing their adaptations in Activity Three, students are ready begin filming. Each group will prepare sets, backdrops, costuming, props to be used during the filming and movie posters to promote their film. This is an opportunity to engage older students or volunteers to assist with production and actual filming. We will use the iMovie app on our iPads to do the actual filming, editing and sharing but there are other options do use for this activity.  Once the movies are edited and ready, we will invite the parents and families to attend a viewing day, with popcorn and lemonade as a treat.


  1. H. C. Andersen, Erik Christian Haugaard, and Virginia Haviland. The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories.
  2. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, directors. Frozen.
  3. Linda Costanza Cahir. Literature Into Film: Theory and Practical Approaches, 14.
  4. Cahir, 16.
  6. Steven Swann Jones, The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of Imagination, 9.
  7. Hans Christian Andersen and Edmund Dulac, The Snow Queen and Other Stories from Hans Andersen, 113.


Andersen, H. C., and Edmund Dulac. Dulac's The Snow Queen, and Other Stories from Hans Andersen. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976.  The classic fairy tale to be read aloud to the students.

Andersen, H. C., Erik Christian Haugaard, and Virginia Haviland. The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974.  This version contains Andersen’s collection. It gives perspective on his writing style, character development and personal background.

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Vintage Books, 2010. This book discusses the importance of reading and telling of fairy tales and myths to the development of young children’s thinking.

Buck, Chris and Jennifer Lee, directors. Frozen. Walt Disney Pictures, 2013. Disney’s animated adaptation of Andersen’s classic fairy tale The Snow Queen.

Cahir, Linda Costanza. Literature into Film: Theory and Practical Approaches, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2006.  Comprehensive text to cover the overall concept of adaptation.

Corrigan, Timothy. Film and Literature: An Introduction and Reader. Routlege, 2011. A series of key essays by a variety of theorists covering aspects of the connection between film and literature.

Golden, John. Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2001. This was useful to skim through for some general ideas.

Jones, Steven Swann. The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of Imagination, New York: Twayne, 1995.  This book covers the general history, analysis, chronology and major works in the genre. Quite accessible and helpful.

Naremore. Film Adaptation. Rutgers University Press, 2000. This volume examines film adaptation in theory and practice through a set of essays discussing and variety of films.

Sims, Lesley, Alan Marks, and H. C. Andersen. The Snow Queen. London: Usborne, 2005.  A picture book version of the Andersen tale for students to enjoy.

A comprehensive website about the life and works of Andersen. Published in Danish but will translate to English. This annotated version of the fairy tale retells it in modern language.  Original text of Andersen’s tale with separate pages for each story. Good way for parents and families to have access to the “real” story. Useful biographical information about Hans Christian Andersen. Good to share with parents and families. Interview with the composers of the music in Frozen, explaining how they were inspired to write the songs for the film.

Appendix – Implementing District Standards


Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.

In this unit, the students will use these guiding question starters to help them understand the story of The Snow Queen and the film, Frozen. They will learn to identify the key details in each version, so they can then explain the differences and similarities between the story and the film adaptation.


Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.

The students will use The Snow Queen and Frozen to practice the skill of retelling a story, particularly a fairy tale. Once they have completed the recounting of the original story and its adaption, they will recount a fairy tale of their choice through storyboards and through their own film adaption.

Comments (0)

Be the first person to comment

When you are finished viewing curriculum units on this Web site, please take a few minutes to provide feedback and help us understand how these units, which were created by public school teachers, are useful to others.
THANK YOU — your feedback is very important to us! Give Feedback